Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name....is the Will of God...-Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p.142.
One of the reasons, perhaps the main one, that in the Baha'i writings our lower nature is often personalified as the Evil One or Satin is that it is such a powerful force. As Peter Khan pointed out in a recent talk this force appears to us in a form that is most attractive to us.1 This is our test. When I saw a program on Landline about a weed known as 'branched broomrape' I could not help but see a comparison between this weed and our lower nature. This weed, this broomrape, functions parasitically drawing nutrients and water from host plants and seriously reduces the yield of susceptible crops like canola, carrots, long-fruited turnip and various native daisies.2 --Ron Price with thanks to 1Peter Khan, "Talk in Adelaide, August 2002," Transcript, Internet; and 2 ABC TV, "Landline," 9 November 2002, 6:00-6:30 pm.
So many things begin
in the Middle East:
take this forinstance--
Or, take this new Faith
which defines Evil as
our lower nature,
drawing the goodness
out of our lives
by some subtle
sucking our nutrients,
teaching us our unfitness
through regret and remorse.1
Unprepared are we:
this weed can destroy us,
this thin-veiled ego,
these 0.2 mm pitted seeds,
they attack our roots
and over time--our life--
some chemical triggers
and we are gone again.
can be killed…this veil,
this spotting of the heart,
and solid gold will
in the assayer's fire.2
1'Abdu'l-Baha, Star of the West, Vol.4, June 1915, pp.43-45.
2'Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 1978, p.182 ……Ron Price 11 November 2002
INEXHAUSTIBLY RICH FORMS
As much as nature stays the same from day to day, as David Suzuki pointed out in a recent interview critiquing the glamorous and stunning nature programs in recent years on television, there are always more details to see afresh. For example, I have been walking in a section of bush here in George Town perhaps two thousand times in the last 38 months. There is unquestionably a sameness to the experience: the trees, the small bushes, the plants, the earth, the birdsong are all substantially the same from day to day and yet there is variation; there are a thousand small details, colours and shapes to notice anew, to examine in finer and different detail that before. When the rain falls, as a gentle mist did this morning, and the wind blows the world of the bush is a wild one with much for the eye to see, for you to feel on your face as your clothes get increasingly wet and you stroll slowly or briskly as is your want in your morning stroll. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 3 November 2002.
There is sameness in this pioneering,
this long journey of a life,
but there is a gushing out here,
temporality's unceasing movement
toward self and other,
magnetizing the world
with a poetic voice, another voice,
my voice, experience as naming,
as words, as nucleus of the story.
Like my walk in the bush
for the thousandth time
where I smell the bluebells
and hear the birdsong sweet
for the first time and yet not,
this poem gives exhilaration1
to the inexhaustibly rich forms
that rise from this age-long
memorial, immemorial self.
1Kathleen Raine, Coomaraswamy in the Inner Journey of the Poet and Other Papers, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1982, pp.72-3.
3 November 2002
TRAVELLING WITH A SHORTENED SNOUT
Occasionally the beauty of nature has an immense impact on me in some direction. It is, I'm sure, a common experience, one that happens to millions of others on earth. Some people want to translate their experience into music, sculpture, art, song or even scientific understanding. I desire to put these intense feelings into words from time to time. The sense of the eternal, of eternity, also grips my mind on some of these occasions. When I travel from George Town into Launceston as I do in these days at the turn of the millennium, in these early years of my retirement, and I gaze at the natural setting of the Tippogoree Hills to the left, the Tamar River to the right and the trees and rock whizzing by me outside the car window, this sense of eternality is particularly strong. Poetry that has a lasting value renders the world in a new way.1 For this reason the nature that I see and which is seen by each generation in a new way as far back as the human brain was enclosed in a bony skull2 is like an eternal poem. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 11 August 2001; 1 Neeli Cherkovski, Bukowski: A Life, Steerforth Press, South Royalton, Vermont, 1997(1991), p.xii; and 2C.A. Cone and Pertti Pelton, Guide to Cultural Anthropology, Rev. Ed., Scott Foresman and Co., Glenview, Illinois, 1969, p.32.
All around me, here, are evidences
of eternity: rocks, sharp-edged,
smooth, mile after mile,
striking my eyes from their home,
set in a wide niche millions of years ago.
Trees and a river, too,
that runs on forever to the sea,
is as close to forever as you can get
this side of eternity.
Where will I travel
on that other side of eternity?
What will I see at the top of a tree?
A blue sky beside me?
A white cloud floating by?
A house, a home, domesticity?
Will I travel as those vertebrata
of the Silurian,1
or those mammalia of the Triassic,
or perhaps the early primates
of the Paleocene,
of the early Cenozoic Era,2
with their shortened snout?
1450 Million years ago
2about 70 million years ago
11 August 2001
"Truth," wrote poet Laura Riding, "is a telling, an enactment."1 Truth for Riding was a continuous execution of that one story which is our own life and which has an infinite number of realizations. This is one way of describing my autobiographical poetry. This is my story of self, an ideal self and a real, existing self. Like Riding, I see my poetry as part of a triple connection: language, truth telling and poetry. Poetry is for me, what it was for Riding, "an uncovering of truth of so fundamental and general a kind that no other name besides poetry is adequate, except truth."2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Laura Riding in "Laura Jackson and the Literal Truth," Critical Inquiry, Spring 1992, pp.454-473 and 2Laura Riding, Collected Poems, London, 1938, p.xviii.
According to Owen1
the fullest life possible
is that of a poet
and his poetry,
in hidden spirings,
perhaps in the mountains,
silent, slow, mysterious,
now coming naturally
as leaves to a tree,2
dropping off bits of life
like rain in the garden
or on the roof,
chunks of wood piled,
lamps in windows
in the evenings,
occasionally a dog barks,
or the heart is pierced,
just for a second
and you wonder what
it was that hit you
in a cross-fire between
your mind and that cavity
in your chest where you
only bleed in thought.
1Wilfred Owen in Wilfred Owen: A Biography, Jon Stallworthy, OUP, London, 1974, p.117.
2John Keats, The Letters of John Keats, February 27th, 1818.
18 March 2002
AN EFFULGENT SPLENDOUR
After looking for several weeks at a pot of orchids out in our back porch, and being struck by their beauty, I decided to write the poem which follows. I have drawn into this poem some of Baha'u'llah's comments on the world of Nature which He writes about in His Tablet of Wisdom. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 12 October 2001.
They seem to reach out
to grab the air and my eye:
at the end of long green stems.
While I prepare an evening meal
their gentle beauty sits up
as if on display
out in the back porch,
deserving a more distinguished place.
Their red lips poised for passion
of the tender kind, generate only beauty,
no heat-of-the-moment, just enticement,
invitation, dancing in their stillness
with more grace and charm
than anything I could create
in my earthly life.
This embodiment of God's Will
in this contingent world,1
this power I cannot grasp,
in this world of being,
an immemorial mystery.
Is this a symbol of Thy beauty?
A reflection in the ocean of Thy wealth?
Could this become a part of an emptied self,
a clear vision, a pure heart and Thy court of holiness?2
1Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p.142.
2Baha'u'llah, Hidden Words.
11 October 2001
SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS
My son came home from his holiday in Tasmania today and brought two beautiful periwinkle shells of the zebra variety. Shells are external secretions that protect molluscs: snails, clams, squids, oysters, etc. They had their beginning about 570 million years ago in about the Cambrian period. Some shells once measured as much as fifteen feet in length. What interests me here in this poem is the use Baha’u’llah makes of the word ‘shell’ in His writings. This poem, and so many poems, tries to turn the vast and unalterable silence of one aspect of reality, the shell, into a formed and articulate beauty. It tries to create new perspectives and new values in relation to self and society as emerging, unfolding forms drawing on the symbol of the humble shell.--Ron Price with thanks to Robert S. Keppelman, Robert Penn Warren’s Modernist Spirituality, University of Missouri Press, London, 1995, p.10.
You1 provided the true Elixir to transmute
my crude metal into the purest gold.
Sadly, inevitably, I suppose,
even after all these years,
there is still much metal.
That pearl, too, is still within its shell,
a shell in the great sea of Your knowledge,
still hidden in mystery beneath the veil of life.
For this shell of surpassing beauty
that protects the Pearl of Great Price2,
unveiled to my eyes, slowly over these years,
I render You thanks.
For this bounty, this favour
which has coloured my world
with forms of wonder and delight,2
is still largely hidden in chambers of utterance,
these secretions3 of my days in this ocean of life.
1This poem addresses Baha’u’llah
2The Pearl of Great Price is the manifestation of God; my Pearl of Great Price is my own soul. The shell could be seen as the ‘Writings’.
3Shells are formed from slow secretions of several chemical substances: carbonate of lime, calcium phosphate and magnesium carbonate. The secretions of our lives, our shells which protect our pearls, our souls, are ‘the writings’. The inner layer of the three layers of secretion contains: mother-of-pearl and has a beautiful irridescence. Like the ‘Writings’, it is the inner layers of meaning that are the most enriching. There are some 100,000 varieties of shells; like the ocean of the ‘Writings’ it is vast, profound and full of meanings, different for each of us.
13 January 1999
I live at the edge of a river, an estuary, where birds fly in abundance. Some have wide wing spans and float across the horizon; some are small and sit on the clothes line outside the window. This morning I could not help pondering their flight and their connection with eternity. The folllowing poem was the result of this contemplation. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 17 June 2001.
They drift in from eternity's past,
on the wing, floating across the blue.
They've been there since Archaeopteryx1
in the Upper Jurassic and the Cretaceous
when they learned to fly
and now are part of our very air.
We drift, too, into eternity's future
across a life of so many years
in such-and-such a place
as we slowly drink
His sweet-scented streams,
soar away into an invisible realm
and go swiftly to a mysterious land2
that stretches out before us
where we, too, learn to fly.
1the first bird in the fossil record at 140 million years BP in the Upper Jurassic; it would appear from the fossil record that birds learned to fly during the next 20 million years.
2'Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p.166.
17 June 2001
I had a young woman, perhaps 18 or 19, in my class in semester two of 1998 and we talked on several occasions about her personal problems. Adolescence, I have often thought, can be and is, hell. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger White, "Adequate Heaven", Occasions of Grace: More Poems and Portrayals, George Ronald, Oxford, 1992, p.76.
You sit so close to me;
your face is like the sun
or, perhaps, the sunflowers
in my garden: intricate,
You tell me of your life,
your sea of troubles:
the drugs, the abuse,
the parents, the hurt—
and still you smile, radiant,
like the fresh peaches
I once ate, luscious,
too juicy to be eaten
in respectable company.
Things are working out, you say.
I do not hurt as much; I’m happier.
I nod, I contrast my tests with hers.
I think, what beauty!
We could be in heaven.
The light irradiates her flawless cheek,
her moist eye-lashes,
her firm and youthful flesh,
her glistening blouse
where breasts curve under-down softly.
We sit, heart-to-heart, so tight.
We could be lovers bound by trust
and we are,
under another blue,
cloudless October sky.
We both yearn to be happy;
we both suffer;
we both bear the weightless burden
of a love that is never spoken,
never declared; only in the eyes, the voice,
the position of the head,
in the soul it is felt
like a taste on the tongue, bitter-sweet,
a fragrance, the yellow-bright frangipani,
the colour, texture, shape of pain
and then both she and I are gone
and are heard no more.
12 January 1999
THE METAPHORICAL NATURE OF THIS SCENE
In my new home I can see the ocean or, more accurately, Bass Strait, far off in the distance. In front of my home is Pipe Clay Bay and the Tamar River flowing toward the Strait, the ocean. The following poem is a meditation on this scene. It seems to me that each part of nature’s world is reflected in my life’s world. I try to capture this reflection in this poem.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Three Epochs, Unpublished Manuscript, 1999.
Beyond the river,
flowing by my eye,
I see the ocean.
It’s waiting for me
when I die.
And so I sit
looking at this tranquil bay,
where boats are anchored,
day after day.
Here I sit
cooling off from life’s heat,
like these boats I’m anchored
to this seat.
for a time along life’s river,
before the ocean’s eternal quiver
takes me to her place of rest
beyond this narrow place,
this little sliver.
Off in the distance
is a mountain range,
stretching out, long and low
across the bay, beyond the flow.
at my garden’s end,
the tee-tree waves its branches
by a sandy beach and I hold
my hand out to life
with less desire to grasp,
less desire to reach,
with less desire, now,
than once I had to teach
the way I have for years.
15 October 1999
SPECTATOR AND SPECULATOR
There can be no limits set to the interests that attached to a great poet thus going forth, like a spirit, from the heart of a powerful and impassioned people, to range among the objects and events to them most pregnant with passion, who is, as it were, the representative of our most exalted intellect...The consciousness that he is so considered by a great people, must give a kingly power and confidence to a poet. He feels himself entitled, and, as it were, elected to survey the phenomena of the times, and to report them in poetry. He is the speculator of the passing might and greatness of his generation. -John Wilson, Review of Childe Harold IV, Blackwood’s, June 1818.
This powerful people of unearthly sovereignity
has but one heart and one mind
but pregnant in a million upon million ways
with passion, prejudice and the power of One.
There are, though, John, many representatives
of its most exalted intellect in this day
of the great burgeoning:
a thousand voices of a thousand writers,
speakers, teachers, artists and a thousand poets,
each with his own voice
going out to a billion upon billion.
Fed by a teeming present of thought fragments,
wresting illuminations from the past
like some pearl diver, the teeming luminescence
of nature’s deep sea neons,
this poet prys loose a rich
and strange burning world
and carries it to the surface
in crystalline wonder,
spectator and speculator
of the predictable and ordinary,
unscripted, flawed and plausible,
editor of the life of a generation
roused to love and pain and death,
behind the sleep-fast windows
of a dozing world.
28 October 1995
A SORROW MOST RESEMBLES LOVE
Remoteness founds a poignancy
Whose message is unclear,
Low-whispered, garbled, urgent, floats
Dim meaning to our ear.
-Roger White, "Near and Far", One Bird, One Cage, One Flight, Naturegraph Publishers, Inc., CA, 1983, p.91.
A sorrow most resembles love
just why that is is hard to say.
Perhaps it has to do with weight,
or with the way we play.
The heart is left inflamed this way;
it burns slowly with the years
and keeps us warm indefinitely,
sometimes right through our tears.
We mourn the unexpressed we lose.
It’s true of souls and trees;
who wants to hear the sadest words
when we’re down upon our knees.
I don’t even bend down much more
for the losses of these years,
I take them with the loss of leaves
like those jacaranda dears.
10 June 1995
...it is the nature of sociability to free concrete interactions...and to erect its airy realm...the deep spring which feeds this realm and its play does not lie in...forms, but exclusively in the vitality of concrete individuals, with all their feelings and attractions, convictions and impulses. -Geoege Simmel, The Sociology of George Simmel, Kurt Wolff(ed.), Collier-Macmillan, NY, 1964.
This is unquestionably the community,
an instrument of mega-proportions
with a community feeling that will
triumph over everything and become
as natural as breathing, necessity itself..
So: what is crucial is our subjective
orientation toward the community
in all its manifold aspects. This is our
elan vital; this is our therapy, our centre,
our norm, our basis of judgement,
our overcoming of antisocial dispositions,
our indestructible destiny.
Here is creative tension: the individual
and community, that much talked about
dichotomy that stifles our capacity for joy;
where we are learning new bases, new
instrumentalities for happiness after
centuries of darkness; where guilt and
innocence play in a drama whose roots
are largely unseen; where the alone and
the lonely are found in a complex web
of social intersticies; where the greatest
theatre of all plays life on the stage
and we play with a required courtesy,
hopefully genuine, a certain reservedness,
but not as stiff and ceremonial as the past.
It seems purely fortuitous: the harmony,
contact and dissonance, the easy replaceability
of everyone we meet, the democracy we play at.
And we must play on the stage as players with
our parts-not indifferent-interesting, fascinating,
important, even serious, with results: after the
action, the play of several acts with many scenes
and exchangeability. Ourselves, our self, our
personality may just vanish or become coated
with the many colours of ‘otherness’.
Enter thou among My servants,
And enter thou My paradise.*
For here you must lose your self
to find community and we have
much to learn about loss of self.
It is here we shall find the
community feeling that will triumph
over everything, as naturally as breathing.
1 December 1995
* Seven Vallies, (US, 1952), p.47.
INCREASING IN NUMBERS
What is ‘real’ has to do with what we believe and experience, not necessarily with what ‘is’. -L.P. Turco, Visions and Revisions of American Poetry, University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 1986, p.154.
The snowgeese, wild voices of the Arctic, have been increasing in numbers since the 1950s. -David Attenborough, Wildscreen, Channel 2, Perth, Western Australia, 14 September 1995, 8:30 pm.
They’ve been increasing in numbers
in a big way since the ‘50s,
a vivid reminder that there’s power
in natural cycles.
Ever since Jamieson Bond went north
beyond the Arctic Circle,
these wild voices of this northern clime
have been flooding south more than ever.
Snowgeese, you were never part of The Plan.
Was there a new spirit in the north,
calling you, calling you by the thousands?
Or was it instinct, nature, some specific
environmental process that led your
dazzling floods of whiteness to travel
three thousand miles across a continent?
What took me, not much later, across
two continents as the numbers increased?
I was part of The Plan, part of the
dazzling floods of the beauty of the rose,
bent on rising above water and clay, and
flying with the nightingale unfolding
inner mysteries high above the earth,
close to that Voice from on high,
beyond the blue-white sky.
14 September 1995
How we understand and appreciate a work of art has much to do with how we understand ourselves and the world we live in; our relations to art determine in part our relations to a culture and its traditions. -B.R. Tilghman, But Is it Art? The Value of Art and the Temptation of Theory, Basil Blackwell, NY, 1984, p.16.
The fact is that each writer creates his precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future. -Jorge Luis Borges in ibid., p.76.
Being an artist now means to question the nature of art. -Terry Atkinson, ‘From an Art and Language Point of View’, Art Language, 1, February 1970, p.23.
This beauteous place on the hill
is unconsciously surrounded and
enriched by a world that is created
by speech, like this poetry, which
condenses and abbreviates making
an energy potentially explosive, a
universe in itself, in miniature,
self-enclosed, self-limiting, a little
hypnotic, but not as forcefully as music,
giving body and definiteness,
vividness and depth, even a purity
and undefiledness, to this
major historic thrust of a mighty process.
The power to unite people through
shared celebration has profound
significance here among these
terraces and buildings. This poetic
office reaches out to all the scenes
of life especially that infallible touchstone
of truth and beauty in the word of the
Mystic Herald rendering people aware,
as much as he possibly can, of the
unifying forces emanating from
His retreat of deathless splendour.
24 December 1995
JOY AND PITILESS RAVENS
From Nature and her overflowing soul
He had received so much that all his thoughts
Were steeped in feeling....in all things
He saw one life, and felt that it was joy.
One song they sang, and it was audible,
Most audible then when the fleshy ear
...slept undisturbed. -William Wordsworth, Pedlar, lines 204-222.
..While I see that there is nothing wrong in what one does, I see there is something wrong in what one becomes. It is well to have learned that. -Oscar Wilde
Looking inward as You asked
I see something of what I am
defined in memory, in some
original impression of delight
or sorrow, or simply nostalgia’s
warm bank of images, a quality
of excitation, a pulse of sentiment
that beats within in all shades and
colours controlled at whim or simply
drifts across my screen from unknown
places in my brain. And I see, too,
through perception’s mirror judgements
made both good and bad and to-be-made
by an ebbing and a flowing mind reminding
me what I have done and might yet do
and hence the possibilities of what I am
and might become: so beautiful, so bright,
so reverent in mystery which cannot die,
and which can be felt so close, so near,
a greatness still revolving, infinite...
but also defiled can be, in infernal fire,
thornlike fetters, imprisoned in the talons
of owls with pitiless ravens lieing in wait.
3 July 1995
What, in the long run, makes the poet is a sort of persistence of the emotional nature, and, joined to this, a peculiar sort of control. -Ezra Pound, Literary Essays, 1954.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
-Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism, 1711.
Indifference to praise or blame
because of preoccupation with
imaginative experience is at the
heart of poetry’s potency: its
liberating and unifying power.
For great goodness is found
in imagination’s intensity as
it insinuates possibilities and
whispers its results like the wind
blowing among the pine trees,
implying nobler, ampler
manifestations of human
achievement in a fluid and
elastic application and latitude.
24 December 1995
PIPELINES AND QUIBBLES
All that one relinquishes of the past is not so consciously shed as the events of imperious yesterday which cut through our enjoyment of the present and which we simply call ‘forgetting.’ -With thanks for an idea to Roger White, Notes Postmarked the Mountain of God, 1992, p.7.
If I didn’t think our mistakes were
the source of our best learning
I’d be irredeemably saddened
by some of my bitterest lessons:
like the woman I once loved whom
I drove away with my intense vision
which I wanted her to wear and by
an anger which seemed to grow
like some weed in my garden shutting
out the glow in her golden hair.
like the woman I once knew
called my mother whom I sacrificed
on the anvil of my own petard
and whose loneliness I did not see,
so blind was I to her very need;
I did not hear her cry, so caught up
was I in my own brave and lonely deed.
Do not mock the wine; it is bitter
only because it is my life! Rumi
once said. But so, too, is it sweet:
the cup of pure and limpid water*
this is the final honey of life,
a certain indifference: for one brings
one’s past into the present and finds
providence revealed in calamity,
even the one in today’s pipeline,
for there’s always a new pipeline.
And then there is the inevitable quibble,
some inner dissenting voice for one knows that
God’s will has not entirely appropriated his.
With quiet elation he turns to his book,
his garden view and his silence. The fan
blows a breeze relentlessly, effortlessly,
like the past which is never relinguished,
consciously shed, as easily as this wind
which blows in his face, or those branches
in the garden which give all their beauty
and form to nature’s zephyrs, forever.
28 December 1995
* ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p.239.
I AM YOUR MYSTERY
Such consciousness seemed but accidents
Relapses from the one interior life
Which is in all things, from that unity
In which all beings live with God, are lost
In god and nature, in one mighty whole.
-William Wordsworth, "Prelude", 1798-99, 206-7.
If all of what my senses report
trembled into thought it would
overwhelm my mind with one sweep
of an intellectual breeze too vast.
This world comes in like
a strain of music on my soul, or
some foulest breath and darkness
which weighs so heavy, heavy:
all shadowy and fleeting
some with a wise passiveness,
some with activity directed, direct,
but always in, in, in, in, endlessly in.
And a strange intensity makes of all
that I see a schoolhouse of oneness,
with the Master of Love guiding my steps
with the faintest sense of the holy,
a holy calm with sight playing
the track of a dream for my mind
to gaze upon and godlike senses
giving short impulses of life,
forms and images that float along
as if from some interior life,
some God within, Mighty,
Powerful and Self-subsistent
was trying to tell me:
I am here.
I am your mystery;
you are mine.
3 July 1995
Let the dreaming, lovely drowned
who loll and bob in bubbled wonder
tell us why, returning,